From the Editor
The TDA Is Great, but Did It Drop the Ball on This One?
New ‘First Card’ Rule Questioned
I admit it – I love the Tournament Directors Association. I love its mission to bring order to chaos and standardize tournament poker rules across the planet. Usually, I love the way they go about it and agree with most of the procedures they adopt. But a recent ruling has me scratching my head.
I’m talking about the new “first card” rule. It states that if a player is not within an arm’s reach of his seat when the dealer deals the first card, that player’s hand is dead. This is a huge departure from the way almost every cardroom in the world polices away-from-table players. Most rooms decree that a player must be in his seat before the last hole card of a hand is dealt to have a live hand.
This latter method gives players a little time to spot the dealer pumping out cards and get back to their seats before having a hand declared dead. No one, to my knowledge, has ever had a problem with this rule. If there has been a hue and cry to change it, then it has eluded me and pretty much everyone I know in the poker world.
In other words, there is no problem here. Therefore, one has to ask why the TDA decided to encourage multitudes of cardrooms to change their policies when everyone is happy with the status quo. The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” has to apply here in spades.
Changing policy in poker is difficult. Players don’t like change. During my “other” job as a poker room supervisor, I often encounter players who insist I am making incorrect floor calls based on how they had seen something done years ago in some unnamed cardroom, or “in Vegas.” So put simply: You need a darn good reason to change something, especially if it is universally accepted.
Reasons given for the “first card” change include eliminating a perceived problem with players seeing another player’s hole cards as they are rushing back to the table. A noble goal, to be sure, but again, how often does this happen? Players must protect their hands and in actual practice there aren’t players constantly moving in and out of their seats, trying to get a glimpse of a hand on the way back.
Another reason for the change was to combat “dealer favoritism.” For example, a dealer slowing his/her pitch down to allow a friend to get back in time, or speeding up to freeze out a non-tipping grinder. I restate: How often does this really happen?
I love the TDA. Most of what it does is right on. I love that TDA decision-makers listen to all players and strive to protect the game, and don’t kiss the butts of so-called big-name players, who make up a very small percentage of the poker-playing public. However, when it comes to changing accepted practice, it pays to tread lightly. A velvet glove is needed, not a fist.